Review: Codeine @ Stranded Bar (Brisbane)

Codeine played Stranded Bar (Brisbane) on 14 April, 2024 - image © Daniel Bergeron
Tim is a Brisbane-based writer who loves noisy music, gorgeous pop, weird films, and ice cream.

"Good evening, we're Codeine from New York City," Stephen Immerwahr murmured.

It was unbelievable for everyone inside Brisbane's Stranded Bar (14 April) to hear those words, even the band's bassist who uttered those words.

Formed in the early '90s, the slowcore trio released two albums and an EP before ending with a whimper in 1994. While the band's initial run may have been a mere blip, the band's legacy strengthened, and a cult following slowly emerged over the years.

After laying dormant for decades, a brief reunion in support of their back catalogue being reissued came and went in 2012. Another decade passed, and to everyone's surprise, Codeine have reemerged from the ice.

Even more surprising, the trio unexpectedly ventured from chilly New York down to Australia. As the first discordant chord from John Engle's guitar chimed on opening song 'D', the eyes of Brisbane fans widened, realising this night was actually happening, and took all of it in.

"I'm a bad advertisement for Sydney," joked Sydneysider Andrew Mamo, opening the night as Burn Before Reading. Where Sydney is a busy hive of sirens and traffic, Andrew's music is hushed. He fed his finger-picked guitar through a delay pedal, laying a bed of ambience for his spidery guitar and whispered vocals.

"If you told 18-year-old me that me and all these wonderful people onstage with me would be supporting Codeine, I wouldn't believe you," Plainer vocalist-guitarist Nick Smethurst told the crowd. "So, feel free to build a time machine and scare the sh.t out of me."

Nick's love for Codeine is evident in the slow pace of the local six-piece's music. However, the band expand on their hero's minimalism adding violin, keyboard, and two clarinets to the mix.

Orchestral flourishes bloomed from the glacial-paced music, with guitar lines shivering in between. As the volume grew, drummer James Eyre Walker thrashed their drum kit, dragging metal objects across their kit, and all six members bellowed Nick's lyrics.

A bass note repeated on the dim stage, announcing the start of A Broken Sail's set. All three members of the Sydney post-rock trio were seated for their set, performing an instrumental that moved at tortoise-pace. Guitarist Zal Dastur's cap cast a shadow over his eyes, both of which stared at his guitar.

As the trio's music continued crawling, Zal lightly played discordant chords and muted harmonics, building tension as the crowd filled with the dread conjured by the music.

"D for effort," whispered Codeine bassist Stephen Immerwahr on opening song 'D'. Guitarist John Engle's pick lightly brushed his strings, each note hanging in the air before slowly building like waves against the shore on a stormy night, crashing into Chris Brokaw's cymbals.

Some struggled to get a view of the band due to the sea of heads nodding slowly to the music, opting to climb on the venue's lounges and stand.

"I feel like string," Stephen softly sighed on 'Barely Real'. "I feel like nothing." Despite the lyrics of defeat and introspection, Stephen bashfully smiled throughout the night, expressing gratitude that his band could travel so far across the globe to perform to adoring fans.

"I can't tell you how incredibly glad and thankful we are to be here," he told the crowd. "It's been fun to learn so much Australian slang. . . We didn't come here to fudge spiders; we came here to play some songs." "F... yeah, c...!" an approving fan shouted.

The room was quiet except for the hum of Stephen's bass. "Walk," he drawled, sustaining the vowel. With the next few words it became clear Codeine were performing a cover of Joy Division's 'Atmosphere' – it could be argued a proto-slowcore song.

John lightly picked his strings and Chris' cymbals rang. The song moved slower than the original's funeral march, stretching its length until shivers broke out in the crowd.

Codeine may go back into dormancy and never play Brisbane again, but it's a moment that will be alive in many fans' memories for decades.

Let's Socialise

Facebook pink circle    Instagram pink circle    YouTube pink circle    YouTube pink circle

 OG    NAT

Twitter pink circle    Twitter pink circle